How to Stay Debt Free through Grad School

You have probably heard that the Bachelor’s degree is the new high school diploma these days. There are so many people getting one that it can be pretty hard to stand out from the competition. Consequently, grad school has become a popular option for students looking to stand out from the crowd of candidates.

While getting an advanced degree can pay big dividends in the end, there are some serious up-front costs, including tuition and living expenses. Here are some ways to make it through grad school without going into serious debt.

Make a Strict Budget

You may have been able to get away with a few impulse purchases when you were out of school and had a decent job, but that won’t get you far in grad school. You need to stick to a strict budget if you are hoping to make it out with minimal debt. Everything from the groceries you buy to the gas you use should be accounted for so you know exactly where your money is going.

Make an Emergency Fund

Most graduate students will agree that having an emergency fund is crucial. After all, rainy days are bound to happen whether you’re in school or not. And if you’re hit with a financial emergency while attending graduate school, then in many ways you’re more vulnerable than if you were employed in the workforce. When saving up for grad school, don’t forget to save enough for a decent emergency fund, too.

Get into a Niche Program

With so many people going into popular fields like sociology or studying law, you won’t find much funding there (and there will be intense competition to secure the funding that is available). And once you graduate from a popular program, you’ll also be faced with steeper competition in the job market. That is why it is important to find a program that is specialized enough so you can leverage your expertise to your advantage once you leave.

When it comes to paying for grad school, you’ll be much more likely to secure funding in a specialized field. You will be one of the few students in such a program, and you may find that there are more scholarships and fellowships available in that department simply because of the limited number of students.

Look at the ROI

Sure, you may want to run off to some big-name school because it sounds good on paper, but what if it doesn’t pay off in the end? Not all grad schools are created equal, and there are vast differences in prestige among programs even within individual universities.

You should look at your graduate education as an investment, with what kind of salary you should expect upon graduation as the return. Do people with an advanced degree in your field make more money than those without? If so, how much more? Does the price of attending grad school justify the expected bump in earnings? Ask yourself these questions and more to determine whether grad school will bring you a positive return on investment. This makes it much easier to find a school that will match your financial needs.

Get an Assistantship

If you are looking to get great experience while helping pay for school, then getting an assistantship could be for you. An assistantship is a program funded by your department to do research, teaching, or another hands-on task. You basically become an employee to the university, and in return they offer you tuition assistance as well as a basic monthly stipend. These positions can also be much more flexible than regular jobs since they are run by the school and typically on-campus.

Before you set out to obtain that advanced degree, make sure you have a plan for funding it. There are millions of students out there who wind up in serious debt because they didn’t plan things out before attending a grad school program. Look over these tips and start applying them when you get into grad school. You will be glad you did when you still have cash in your pocket come graduation day!

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